The Hawaii Supreme Court sided with the state today and dismissed an election challenge launched by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Big Island voters who were unable to cast ballots on Aug. 9 due to Tropical Storm Iselle.

According to the Thursday ruling, the high court said it did not have jurisdiction over the constitutional questions raised by the ACLU.

The dismissal also noted that the ACLU’s lawsuit, filed Aug. 21, was admittedly ““not a typical ‘election contest.’”

The midday voting crowd at Keonepoko Elementary School on August 15, 2014 in the Puna District of Hawaii Island.

Not everyone who wanted to vote was able to cast a ballot in this year’s primary election in the Puna district on the Big Island.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

The ACLU filed the lawsuit after several voters claimed they could not vote in the primary because they were unable to get to the polls due to fallen trees and power lines.

Those voters also were not allowed to vote in a special makeup election on Aug. 15 for affected Puna residents.

ACLU attorney Daniel Gluck issued a statement after the ruling that said he was disappointed in the ruling, but that his group will continually fight to “defend and protect civil rights, including the right to vote.”

“While our clients are disappointed that they will not be able to cast ballots in the primary election,” Gluck said, “the ACLU will continue its work to ensure that every person has an equal opportunity to vote – even when a natural disaster strikes – and we look forward to working with the Legislature to prevent these kinds of situations in the future.”

Attorney General David Louie welcomed the high court’s dismissal.

“Today, the Hawaii Supreme Court reached the right result in all three challenges to Hawaii’s primary election,” he said. “These decisions bring closure and finality to our primary election. The candidates and Hawaii’s voters can now look forward to the general election knowing that the results of the primary election are sound and not subject to any further challenge.” 

The Aug. 15 makeup election received a lot of attention locally and nationally because of a slim vote differential between U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.

Hanabusa filed a similar legal challenge prior to the primary, but it was dismissed by a Circuit Court judge.

While there were technically enough votes in the Puna area to swing the election in Hanabusa’s favor, she ultimately lost to Schatz.

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